Beware the Mommies

In an interview that aired today on Colorado Matters , Denver Public Schools superintendent Michael Bennet discussed the controversial redesign of North High School. In a district that is suffering from "catastrophic institutional failure," as Bennet put it, North has the worst graduation rate in DPS — out of 700 students entering as freshmen, only 200 will earn a diploma.

The primary schools of northwest Denver don't fare much better, Bennet points out, since studies have found that the longer kids attend area middle schools, the less proficient they become. The overhaul at North is part of Bennet's pledge to reverse declining enrollment — more than 10,000 students have fled the district over the past several years — by luring back families who are currently driving their kids across town to better-performing schools. Despite the rapid development and home appreciation in Highland and surrounding neighborhoods, middle schools like Horace Mann and Skinner are operating at less than 50 percent capacity.

But the drop can't be solely attributed to the childless yuppie hordes currently staking claims in the area. Quite to the contrary, high-testing schools like Academia Anna Marie Sandoval at 3655 Wyandot Street have waiting lists in the hundreds. It was this demand that, in 2002, birthed the grassroots group Northwest Parents for Excellent Schools, headed by Jennifer Draper Carson and backed up by the city-wide Piton Foundation. But one of the most effective mobilization tools of local angry parents has been Highland Mommies , an informal association for mothers who "get together regularly for playgroups, to play at the park, and share moms' nights out!" What began as an online babysitting co-op has morphed into an army of activist mothers who have been showing up by the hundreds to meetings and workshops dealing with the North High redesign.

If Bennet thought he had his hands full with the peeved African-American ministers after he shut down Manual, he hasn't witnessed the wrath of the mommies. — Jared Jacang Maher

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun